Sunday Supper: The Christmas Pudding Adventure continues

We should make a special occasion of Sunday Supper, using the time for family and friends… connecting in the best way, at the table.

I have a follow up for you.

You may recall that I was resolved to make a Christmas Pudding.  I made it!  I said I would show more “later”.  That was in early December.  Here is the update.

When I finished steaming the pudding for a few hours.  I let it cool a bit, added plenty of brandy, wrapped it up, and put it in the wine-cellar in an old wooden wine case lest any invasive critters get in.

Today I checked it out.

“But Father! But Father!” some of you are saying, especially those of you across the pond who know what I mean by this sort of pudding.  “Why didn’t you eat this for Christmas?”

I was on the road for most of that time and unable to do anything like that.  (I am grateful, however, to Prof. P in NYC who gave me a little pudding for Christmas!  Kudos to him!)  Also, I knew that there would be a meeting of my literary group at the end of January (we are focused on Gerard Manly Hopkins at the moment).  I am to cook for the meeting.

Because it is before the Feast of the Purification, I feel justified to serve a Christmas Pudding for dessert, just as we are justified to sing the Alma Redemptoris Mater until  2 Feb.

But this happens not today, Sunday, but rather tomorrow, Monday.  So, this is for Monday Supper, but the theory is the same.

“But Father! But…”,…..


I am making – those of you who speak Italian should swallow and put your Mystic Monk Coffee down –  Strozzapreti alla putanesca.

I will follow this with a chickens roasted with lemon and rosemary, which I have growing in abundance inside.   I think I will serve a big green salad with this, rather than go with more starch, such as potatoes.  Let’s keep it simple, to make room for the pudding!

I will probably make a “hard sauce”.

Also, thanks to frequent reader and contributor (to both the combox and the donation button!) EC, I have real HOLLY to put around the pudding!

The holly is a bit long in the tooth, but it still has bright red berries and prickly green leaves.  Very festive for such an uninviting vegetable.

And now, friends, here is the pudding, redivivus.

I put lots of stuff in it, obviously.

Having never made – nor eaten – one of these in situ, I am guessing that this is as it should be.  Pictures I have seen suggest that these puddings are often darker.  I am guessing that is because of the different sugar used.  Oh well.

I will set it to steam for a few hours tomorrow.

Finally… it smells like I imagine heaven’s kitchen might smell.

I think I will take the holy off before I light the pudding on fire.

Also, I wonder how much more brandy I should add…. hmmmm….

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. benedetta says:

    For when you do finally light up that pudding, Father: in bocca al lupo!

  2. roamincatholic says:

    When I lived in the UK, we would use the better part of a bottle of brandy. Add some, let it soak. Add some more, let it soak. If you want a good flame, you need to add a final bit just a minute before you light it… needless to say, we had great conversation after the pudding was finished!

  3. Genna says:

    Mmmmmm. Looks good. I can almost taste it from here! To get a really good pudding fire going you could heat some of the alcohol in a large spoon over a flame (making sure it doesn’t catch) and ignite as it’s poured over. Spectacular.

  4. Genna: Yes, that is the way to go. Also, if you are ever adding some a dash of something to an espresso… heat it in the spoon before adding it and igniting it.

  5. edmontonn18 says:

    Oh my, never eaten a traditional Christmas pudding? You haven’t lived yet!

    Although traditional to steam the British Christmas Pudding using a cloth, these days we tend to cover them with a layer of greaseproof paper and kitchen foil, pleated across the top and tied securely round the lip of the basin with string.

    Once cooked the suet in the pudding – which melts while cooking – solidifies and forms an airtight seal, keeping the pudding free from bacteria. There’s no need to unwrap the pudding after cooking, just leave them to cool right down and make sure it’s completely dry on the outside. Puddings left this way will keep for up to two years in a cool, dry place, just make sure that the foil lid doesn’t get damaged. They get better the longer they are kept and two-year old Christmas pudding is just amazing but even one year of waiting makes a big difference.

    Ideally, Christmas puddings should be a very dark brown, from using both dark muscovado sugar (“Barbados sugar”) and black treacle (similar to molasses sugar). The puddings get darker the longer the are kept. White, refined, sugar and golden syrup don’t give a sufficient colour. As for the alcohol, I tend to add brandy to the vine fruits a week or so before making the pudding and leave it to soak in to the fruit covered with Clingfilm. Some recipes will also include some stout in the mixture, which is a beer made from dark malt.

    The pudding is steamed for a few hours more before cooking and when turned out, they are sloshed with brandy or rum and – with the lights turned down – set alight, giving a few moments of beautiful blue flames.

    There is one other trick: place a circle of greaseproof paper just large enough to cover the bottom of the basin before adding the pudding mixture. It helps them turn-out perfectly when served.

    Christmas pudding can be served with different accompaniments, including:

    * Brandy butter (butter, confectioners’ sugar and rum mixed together);
    * Crème anglaise – known to we Brits as custard;
    * A sweet white sauce, flavoured with brandy;;
    * Advocaat – the dutch brandy and egg liqueur (less traditional, but apparently very tasty);
    * Fresh cream.

    There is even a traditional day to make your Christmas Puddings – the Sunday before Advent, known as “Stir-up Sunday” from the collect in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, a translation of the collect “Excita, quæsumus” from the Roman Missal.

    “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of Thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

    I hope you and your guests have a great meal, and that you’ll all be encouraged to make your own puddings next Christmas.

    [Thanks for all this.. but… did you see my other posts about the pudding? I linked, above. check them out.]

  6. Lauren says:

    Father Z- I’ve made English Christmas puddings for over 20 years – one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

    You didn’t do anything wrong with regards to the color of the pudding. The pudding darkens the longer you let it sit, and since you made yours in December, it’s only had about a month to darken (kind of ripes with age). I try to make mine in early September for Christmas and that is when I get a dark pudding. The years when I don’t make the pudding until November, the pudding comes out light brown. I made this discovery by sheer luck.

    Either way – they are delicious – so don’t worry about the coloring.

    Buon appetit

  7. Animadversor says:

    My paternal grandmother used to make fruitcakes every November so that we might begin to eat them around Christmas. They were very dark and moist, rather unlike most fruitcakes I have eaten, including otherwise good ones. I later learned that she used to cook them partly in a pressure cooker, so I suppose that in this respect they were a bit like Christmas puddings.

    She used Bourbon (or sometimes Canadian whisky) in the batter, then as the cake was cooling she baptized it with more, then wrapped it in a linen towel soaked in more still. Then periodically she would freshen it with yet more, which I suppose is appropriate, as she was an Anabaptist—in any case repetita iuvant. (To this day the smell of Bourbon reminds me of my grandmother, and of Christmas.) By June, if any was left, it was awfully good, very rich yet quite light at the same time. We ate it without sauce (though evidently not without “sauce”), though at Christmas we did drink eggnog with it, if that counts.

    I apologize to anyone who has found this recitation tedious, but it was very pleasant to remember something that will never happen again.

  8. Animadversor says:

    I forgot to mention, she used to soak the fruit in brandy—very important.

  9. Maria says:

    Fr. Z.,
    Here is the yummiest (in my opinion) custard recipe in the world if you wish to use custard.

    4 egg yolks
    25g golden caster sugar
    1 dessertspoon cornflour
    425 ml whipping cream
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


    Whisk cornflour, egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl.

    Heat cream in a small saucepan and when it arrives at simmering point, pour it onto the egg mixture, whisking as you pour.

    Now quickly pour the whole lot back into the saucepan
    – add the vanilla and whisk over a medium heat until it just begins to bubble and thicken (do not worry, it will not curdle – if it does look all grainy, it will smooth itself up again when whisked off the heat).

    Pour it back into the bowl and leave to cool if using cold.

    Father, this is the most delicious custard we have ever tasted, and is not as complicated as it looks.


  10. “strozzapretti” indeed…

    I’d counter some farfalle ‘arrabiata for the scandalized laymen reading… ;-) … but I haven’t any farfalle.

    Mum, who made her first Christmas pudding this year as well, was plesantly surprised at how thoroughly darkened it was, and reported conjecturing that the blackcurrants and raisins contribute lots to the colour, after hours and hours of gradual steaming. I don’t recall right now whether you used blackcurrants or what… Of course, it’s also a little tricky to gauge this from the outside of a pudding, so let’s wait to be surprised! (the proof of the pudding is in the eating)

    Bon appetit!

  11. You know what would be awesome as a Father Z project later on this year? Since he already has suet and pudding ability?

    Sussex Pond Pudding. You put a whole lemon inside, and the cooking and ingredients marmaladize it. I just heard about this yesterday. What a delightful thing to have exist!

  12. wanda says:

    Fr. Z., I had to tell you, I googled strozzapreti alla putanesca and your blog came up at the head of the list. I thought that was pretty cool.

    Anyway, enjoy your meal and pudding on the morrow. As I ponder the aromas and things being lighted on fire, I’m having a soothing mug o’ Mystic Monk, Midnight Vigils, it is swell.

  13. caite says:

    I have made Christmas puddings and I have made Christmas cakes (fruitcakes) and I love them both.
    And am partial to a custard sauce on the pudding.

    Do be careful lighting the cake. Yes, warm the alcohol first and do not add too much.
    I might have to share the story of how my brother almost set his house on fire one year with a Christmas pudding.

  14. Desertfalcon says:

    Is that a rather plump kitty making the pudding?

  15. robtbrown says:

    Overwhelmed by own laziness, I used to buy Emeril’s puttanesca sauce, which was excellent. As far as I know, it is no longer available. Anyway, it dawned on me yesterday that I could add capers, olives, and pepper flakes to Classico Tomato Basil Sauce and have a decent puttanesca. Also maybe a bit of olive oil.

    Fr Z, does this make sense?

  16. robtbrown: Or, you could take an extra five minutes and make it correctly.

  17. Jeffrey Morse says:

    Hard sauce on Christmas Pud is the ONLY way to go- Butter, icing sugar (powdered), lemon juice, good bit of fresh nutmeg, and brandy, or bourbon! I cannot even comprehend custard on Christmas Pud….

  18. benedetta says:

    Just showed the series of Max drawings to a 10 year old family member who thought it hilarious. At the end he went, “Kablam!” Very dramatic.

  19. joan ellen says:

    It virtually looks heavenly!

  20. jules1 says:

    This is unrelated, but has anyone bought the “Mystic Monk” coffee? Just want a couple of opinions on it.

  21. Ellen says:

    Jules1, I don’t like coffee but I bought a bag for my son in law who loves coffee dearly. He raved about it, he loved it, he said it was the best coffee ever.

  22. Mariana says:

    “Strozzapreti alla putanesca.”

    Mamma mia! What an unfortunate name. OK,strozzapreti, I can explain that to the family, but the rest…isn’t there another name for the dish?

    “….custard on Christmas Pud….”

    How perfectly vile!

  23. I have sadly never had Christmas pudding, but it looks like the kind of thing that would be lovely with ice cream. That is probably some kind of sacrilege, but, hey, I use HP brown sauce with curry chips.

    Mariana, custard seems to be a staple for the English, which the Irish have also adopted. My first term in Belfast, I was staying at the halls of residence in semi-catered accommodation. We got breakfast and dinner in the ‘restaurant’. One fixture of the set up was a big cauldron of custard kept, it seemed, perpetually warm, so that the native students could use it on any dessert that happened to be available. The Italians were somewhat confused as to what this thing was and wondered whether they could put it on their dinner until I put a fortunate end to their plans by explaining that this was not likely to enhance the already somewhat dubious quality of the food served in the student halls.

  24. Father Z, that pudding looks absolutely delicious! Enjoy!

  25. robtbrown says:

    Fr. John Zuhlsdorf says:

    robtbrown: Or, you could take an extra five minutes and make it correctly.

    With apologies to Richard Nixon, I’m no cook.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    Do not forget the Warre’s Vintage Port to have with your Pudding (always capitalized, as The Pudding). We always have Port with the Pudding. The late bottled is fine and less expensive for tight pocketbooks.

  27. Thomas G. says:

    What IS that hilarious looking little character – a cat, a possum, a beaver? He kills me.

  28. Maria says:

    In a previous post, I forgot to say how delicious that Christmas Pud of yours looks Fr. Z.

    As to the drawings, did you draw them Fr. Z?

    I have often wondered if you drew your own avatar on COL.
    Nice loose style of drawing, whoever did them.

  29. irishgirl says:

    I like the drawings-they’re pretty funny!
    I echo robtbrown: I’m no cook, either!
    I’m strictly a ‘can and package’ type! Have no patience (and most important, no money) to be creative in the kitchen. I just ‘eat and go’!

  30. AnAmericanMother says:

    We were in Whole Foods yesterday and saw the identical strozzapreti bag featured in the previous post . . . . so of course we bought it. The Better Half objects to both olives and anchovies, though, so we will have to modify the recipe a bit. (I know, I know, but he was a (well done) meat-and-potatoes Irishman when I met him, it has taken 33 years of work to get him to eat rare steak and vegetables. We are making progress!)

    “clerical collars a la working girl?”

  31. MJ says:

    “we are justified to sing the Alma Redemptoris Mater until 2 Feb.”

    Yeah!! Our choir director is really taking advantage of this (which I’m totally happy about). Our fav is the Alma Redemptoris Mater by Palestrina. Sang that one yesterday at High Mass – gorgeous!

    The pudding looks yummmmy good! Mmmmm…..

  32. My wee kitty, beloved as she is, does, it must be admitted, somewhat resemble the shape of the kitty or whatever engaged in putting the final touches to the pudding masterpiece.

  33. RichardT says:

    Father, try warming the brandy bain-marie style (easiest is in a mug or ladle placed in what’s left of the water used to boil the pudding). That warms it enough to set on fire nicely, without risking premature inflammation.

    But yes, either take the holly off before lighting, or soak it in water for several hours before using. I have scorched the ceiling before by using holly picked too early on Christmas morning, never mind stuff posted weeks ago.

    Enjoy the pudding – it looks good. The colour is probably just the type of sugar – we use muscovado, which is very dark. Shouldn’t affect the taste.

  34. asophist says:

    I just found out that “Strozzapreti” means “strangled priest” – how awful! Does any one know how this type of pasta got that name? I suppose the Italians, with their long history, have encountered many a priest with less-than-heroic virtue, possibly leading to such thoughts.

  35. irishgirl says:

    asophist-‘Strozzapreti’ means ‘strangled priest’? Yikes! Wonder if Father Z knows about that…
    Italians DO have strange names for pasta, that’s for sure!
    Re the photo of the Christmas pudding…is that what it looks like? Makes me think of mashed fruitcake….
    Like I said…I’m no cook…. [shrugs and rolls eyes]

  36. mike cliffson says:

    Fr :
    I don’t think I’m repeating anyone’s comment:
    If you have decent strength (for the comfort of a christian gentleman) spirits in the States, don’t worry how much brandy and how much of it you heat, it’ll still catch light.
    If however you suffer from nanny as in the benighted pagan postwar British custom of watering down for sale what the plebs are to drink, heating the spirits will just drive off too much alcohol. M’father used to try to use fast heat from pokers and suchlike, not always sucessfully-and otherwise. Noone was ever killed or seriously injured.Microwaves have solved the problem!
    Is it best served with
    cold running cream?
    Whipped (NOTChantilly with sugar) cream?
    Clotted cream?
    Brandy butter?
    or Rum butter? (These last two being basically made of butter, brownsugar, and brandy or rum , proportions to taste, and are solidish. If I weren’t baptized, I’d quake with dread at the wrath of my ancesters rising from their graves at the very mention of the following idea for over there: ” Southern comfort butter”)
    Solution: be like our family and have the LOT on the table, and have a small spoonful of pud with Each and Every of the above!
    Bon apetit! ¡ que aproveche!

  37. Mariana says:

    “clerical collars a la working girl?””

    Thank you for your discreet bowdlerisation : ) !

  38. Rich says:

    I don’t care if a tofurkey can perform such fancy tricks as cooking a Christmas pudding, the accompanying comic is right in having it in some way itself cooked at the end, albeit in the somewhat unconventional manner of blowing itself up with brandy. Come to think of it, brandy-seared tofukey would make the perfect complement to Christmas pudding…

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